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Lotus Racing close to sponsorship deal with Petrobras?

Lotus Racing - the only one of the F1 2010 newcomers to reach the chequered flag in the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir at the weekend - looks set to steal another march on its immediate rivals through an imminent sponsorship tie-up with Brazilian oil giant Petrobras
It is being reported that F1 2010 newcomer Lotus Racing is in the final stages of discussions regarding a sponsorship tie-up with Brazilian oil giant Petrobras.

Whilst some sources in Brazil claim that a deal has already been done, an official for semi-public, Rio-based Petrobras told UOL Esporte that a collaboration between the two parties remains merely 'under consideration'. Confirmation, however, is anticipated between now and the end of the month, with the two Racing Green and Yellow-liveried Lotus T127s of former grand prix-winners Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen set to sport Petrobras branding as of the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona in early May.

Petrobras was last seen in the top flight as a partner to Williams F1 between 1998 and 2008, and different suggestions value the deal with Anglo/Malaysian outfit Lotus at anywhere between $5 million and $9 million. It is understood that talks have also been held with rival teams, although pre-season rumours that the largest company in South America would help to bankroll Bruno Senna's graduation to the grand prix grid with Campos – now Hispania/HRT – proved to be somewhat wide of the mark.

Petrobras had a contract in-place to sponsor and supply Honda in 2009 prior to the Japanese manufacturer's sudden and unexpected withdrawal from competition and the Brackley-based operation's subsequent transformation into Brawn GP. That backing did not transfer across to the team's new guise, with the explanation being that the organisation did not wish to act merely as a commercial sponsor when the technological challenge of developing and supplying a manufacturer entry with its products had gone.

Petrobras' technical chief Rogerio Goncalves cautioned that even in the event of an imminent return to the sport, there is not sufficient development time to be able to supply oil to any teams in 2010.

Any deal would represent another coup for Lotus, which earlier this month announced a partnership with leading news network CNN [see separate story – click here].

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